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Sustain the SWS on the OHIO Class SSBN through 2042

The OHIO Class SSBN began a new phase of Sea Based Strategic Deterrence when it started relieving the 41 for Freedom SSBNs in the 1980s, initially employing the Trident I C4 Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile and leveraging the Nuclear Weapons and missile production infrastructure of the original Fleet Ballistic Missile Program. As the U.S. sought to increase the range, accuracy, reliability, and lethality of its Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile program, in 1988, USS TENNESSEE dawned a new age of SBSD as she ushered in the advanced Trident II D5 Strategic Weapons System in the newly built Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base, specifically designed to support this new weapon system. Over the following decade, as new OHIO Class SSBNs were brought online (SSBN 735 through SSBN 743) with the D5 missile system, the early OHIO Class SSBNs were also converted from a C4 system to align with the rest of the D5 fleet.

Originally composed of 18 OHIO class SSBNs, the SSBN fleet settled on a 14-ship class carrying the Trident II D5 missile system executing SBSD, while the first four OHIO Class SSBNs were converted to conventional guided missile and special operations forces submarines (SSGN 726 through SSGN 729). The 14 ship OHIO Class SSBN fleet remains the backbone of U.S. strategic deterrence, carrying approximately 70% of the accountable deployed strategic nuclear warheads allowed by international treaty in the form of the W76/W88 families of nuclear warheads. Originally designed for a 30-year service life, the OHIO Class submarines were called upon to extend this service to 42 years, supporting a delay in investment in the next generation of SSBNs. To account for this extension in service life, SSP embarked on a life extension program for the D5 missiles to update critical but aging missile electronics systems. SSP introduced the Trident II D5 Life Extension (D5LE) program to the fleet in 2017 and will continue through approximately 2025 to convert D5 missiles to D5LE when they are pulled off the SSBNs during normal missile maintenance times.

 

The last OHIO Class SSBN, USS LOUISIANA (SSBN-743), currently executing her mid-life Engineered Refueling Overhaul (ERO) will support SBSD 2084 until she is scheduled for retirement in 2042. SSP must ensure the “nofail” SBSD mission is supported on the OHIO class through 2042, providing a reliable Trident II D5/D5LE weapons systems with W76/W88 warheads until this final ship of the class is decommissioned. In parallel, SSP’s program efforts and collaboration with the UK through the Polaris Sales Agreement must support the UK’s Continuous At Sea Deterrence through VANGUARD class life and the transition to a DREADNOUGHT SSBN fleet.

To meet these critical program responsibilities, SSP will execute Naval Nuclear Weapons Program Technical Authority for NW systems and Regulatory Oversight of the NNDM. Through programmatic excellence in shipboard sustainment and modernization programs across the SWS subsystems and in NW surety, and through diligent oversight of the logistical supply chains, SSP not only will maintain a credible and reliable weapons system, but will also continue unlocking new capabilities the warfighter can leverage to enhance strategic deterrence and act decisively should deterrence fail.

 
 

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